Monday 30th July 2007

I suppose I should start by explaining something. Recently, perhaps as little as the past two years, I have started to classify my weekends. Rank them in terms of ‘events’ and outrageousness. Almost a year ago, my big lad’s weekend would have been described purely as ‘premium’. Sure, two major national (if not global) events back to back. However, just over something missing that did not enable it to get the label, Ultimate. That is deserving only to weekends such as this. A weekend, that is so busy, you do not have time to breathe or even think. A weekend, where you end up having less than two and half hours sleep on Saturday night / Sunday morning. I will start, as all my best blog entries do, at the beginning. I had quite a few errands to run on Saturday morning, so got my sister up early and we drove around town to pick up bits and pieces and get all the jobs done. By the time I got home, it was 10am and I quickly vacuumed and washed the 307. I cannot remember the last time it had been cleaned but I did not do a dedicated job, it was more a case of having a cleaner car to drive around, rather than sparkling detail. That could wait. I packed up my things, had a quick shower and as I was about to head out, got the phone call from Charlie. I was literally going to call him in a minute to explain I was late and leaving now. It was about 11.35am precisely. I was late, however, we had made a major logistical miscalculation. It would have been easier for Charlie to pick me up and drop me off as he would later drive right past my house, on our drive up to Stratford. Never mind. I got to Charlie’s flat at 12:09pm, after the TomTom took me on an extended route around the back roads. As soon as I turned up, Charlie appeared at his door and was ready to go. I dropped my case and sleeping bag and we jumped in the Vectra. We drove around to the local Tesco Express, literally around the corner, got some food for lunch and were on the road. This is where we soon realised that it would have been easier to grab a lift, as Charlie explained his proposed route. He was going to get onto the M40, but get off at Banbury and take the country roads around to the festival venue. This would be best to avoid the traffic. He put the volume up on his dance compilation and put his foot down, we were on our way. The journey was uneventful really, the Vectra Estate was quite happy to cruise at three figures. Not bad for a 1.9 diesel. Of course there were weekend drivers, clogging up the fast lane but we eventually got them to pull away and overtake. A white van man temporarily lost control of his vehicle while in the fast lane at around 80, but Mr. T had the reflexes of a cheetah and responded with the brake in plenty of time. We came off the motorway and then hit the country roads. The sun was shining and we were looking forward to a pleasant afternoon. On the country lanes, we came up against more slow movers, but Charlie dispensed with them quite easily, over taking in quick session. As we approached Long Marston, we spotted the AA road signs, we were heading the right way to the car park. We had made the journey in less than two hours. It struck 2pm exactly as we entered the car park. We were guided by quite depressed stewards, some just far to bored and lazy to even put up their arms fully, let alone smile. We drove for about ten minutes, circling the car park and being taken towards and then around the perimeter of the site and parking up in the field. We were the first row of cars, parked on the field, right up against the fence for one of the camping areas. I looked at the clock on the dash, 14:08. Not bad going at all. We got out, and while a few of the people around us headed straight for the entrance, we had some food and drink. There was no rush, the gates and only just opened and we were here. Relax. Take the weight off your feet before the afternoon and long night of party begins. Charlie called a few friends, firstly Crystal. One of the people he had met on his camping trip up to Scotland in the last week of June. They were camping for the whole weekend and explained it was a total ‘mud-fest’. Looking down at my shoes, I realised, maybe I should have brought my wellies! Never mind, how bad could it get. On the advice, Charlie changed from his trainers into walking boots. Wise man. After grabbing some drinks for the walk down, we locked up the car and headed down. The ground was quite dry and hard, apart from the odd puddle I had to leap over. So far so good, I thought. How naive would I feel some thirteen hours later. It was a good eight minute walk around to the entrance gate, and I expected security to be tight. I bought a programme, for ¬£6 from a girl as we walked into quite a busy crowd of people. Some were collecting tickets, some waiting for their friends. As we went through, we had to first dispose of our drink cans and then have our tickets ripped up and thrown into a big black bag. Great! So much for the souvenir. We then came to the security check point, bags were being checked but no one was being searched. A police sniffer dog was patrolling, walking in and out between the people. However, police numbers looked light for an event of this size. As we walked through, we took a quick look around and headed for the main stage sponsored by BBC Radio One. I used the opportunity to take some photographs.

Radio One StageSite

Crystal and friends were on their way from the camping area and would us by the Tuborg tent. This is a poor man’s Carlsberg, for the the uninitiated. One of the sponsors of the festival I believe. We got some drinks and just waited to meet up with our friends. Charlie called Sarah, whom I had met twice last year. First in early August at the Tiesto gig at Slinky, Bournemouth. Then a little eight days later at Pav’s legendary barbeque. They were just in Banbury and on the way down. They would call Charlie when they got in. We consulted my programme schedule and headed over to the nearby MixMag tent, which had a mixture of music just to warm up the crowd for the main event. The sun was out, the temperature was reasonable. I was looking forward to my second festival experience. This was much bigger than HiFi, which I had attended in Winchester last May. I think I have caught the festival bug, but more on that later. After fifteen twenty minutes, we were still waiting to meet up with Charlie’s friends. In that time a girl had approached us twice and handed over a handful of Trident chewing gum, with the words, “You never know when you might get lucky!”. Charlie gave me a knowing looking. After a few minutes of a phone call we found them. We then decided to head over to God’s Kitchen tent as the Radio One stage, which had been scheduled to start at 3pm, was now delayed by an hour. It was when we headed this tent, the other side of the complex, I began to realise what they meant by mud. I was literally falling a few inches into the slush as I made my way half way through to the stage. We had been here just over an hour. Then as I watched the stage, I noticed a familiar face, walking down back through the middle of the revelers. It was my school/college friend and former workmate, Daniel Crennell. I instantly walked over to greet him. At first he didn’t recognise me, but eventually he did and gave me a hug. I tried to ask why he had not added me to Facebook or replied to my message but his response (if you can call it that) was undistinguishable. I think the medical term is, he was “off his face”. He gave me a hug and then disappeared. I came back to Charlie to explain who I had just tried to say hello to. I wanted to get some photos of him and I did a bit later. We were outside, for a bit of a break and I noticed Daniel outside too. He had lost his friends and in his drunken stupor, tried to text and call them. I captured the few moments on camera. It was a shame really because that last time I had seen Crennell, as we used to call him, was almost exactly five years ago. Since then, we had lost touch as he had moved away from Wycombe. He appeared on FaceBook and for a time was in the London network before switched to no network and not responding to my friend request and message. Friends come and go, the odd few you meet up again several years later at a dance music festival.

Daniel

After getting some more drinks, we decided to have a walk around. Crystal, Rob, Nicola and friends headed back to their tents to change and rest before the long evening session. We were supposed to meet them at the same place at 18.30 but we would not see them again. Charlie and myself headed around the site to take a look around the various tents and also the all important toilet break. The cubicles were provided by Andy (Andy’s Loos) and were much better than those a HiFi. In Winchester, it was a communal high raised train with no flushing facilities. Not nice, trust me. We then headed back to the God’s Kitchen tent and chilled out for the about an hour or so. It was at 6pm we heard from Sarah. She was by the Radio One stage. As we came out of the tent, the Red Arrows had started their display. (I had heard about their performance on BBC Radio One this morning, while driving in my sister’s car). As we walked over, I grabbed my camera and grabbed a few patchy photographs. The blue skies had got a light shade of grey. Heading towards the front of the stage, we used the directions from Sarah’s directions via text. Left of the main stage, twenty metres back from the left screen. We split up and looked around and could not find them. In between, I caught the climax of the performance up above. We had almost given up, when Charlie spotted Sarah in the crowd and we met up with them. There was Sarah, her boyfriend James and their friend Dan. Dan was a character, but little did I know how crazy he would be over the next nine odd hours. We watched the final few songs of David Guetta, with my favourite, “Love Don’t Let Me Go”. The crowd went absolutely nuts! We headed back to the God’s Kitchen tent, this is where we would spend most of the night, into the small hours.

Red Arrows

I have completely lost track at this moment in time. The line up, looking at my programme was as follows, Eddie Halliwell (6.30pm – 8pm), Judge Jules live on Radio 1 (8pm – 9.30pm). The the other highlights afterwards were, Armin Van Buuren (10.30pm – 12:00am) then the headliner, Paul Van Dyk from midnight until 2am. There was some light rain at 9pm, so we did not head over to see Basement Jaxx over on the main stage, but I was not that concerned, I was happy to stay with my friends as we were. It was around 8.30pm, that we ventured out into the drizzle to grab some food. We got some light snacks from the stalls behind the entrance to the tent. Charlie, Daniel and James went off to get drinks while Sarah and I tried to keep dry under the covers. After refueling, we went back in for some more, Judge Jules’ set coming to a close for Radio One listeners. Charlie mentioned to me that he had hoped Pav had recorded the whole set. Van Buuren was very good, but the main draw was the man from East Berlin and he did not disappoint. Of course, I am only familiar with PvD from his commercial releases. (Although I also have another story. When I was in Berlin for my History trip back in October 1999, one of my friends Rachel was hunting down Dyk albums for her boyfriend, even going to the length of calling him to make sure it was the right CD.) He was amazing, really got the crowd going, the tent was packed out and we were near the front, to the left of the main stage. Perfect view of both the DJ and the dancers in front of the screens. There was a VIP area, behind the barrier with a few people dancing, quite self-consciously on a crate. Now, I could not tell you which tracks were played, although Charlie was quick to pick up and point out the ‘classics’. However, I enjoyed the set, it was fantastic. The middle part did lose a little momentum but he was able to pick it up for a breathtaking finale! Well worth the ticket price and dancing around in the mud.

Paul Van Dyke

Any DJ to follow Paul was going to have to pull something out of the hat to match him, and as you can expect, Ferry Corsten was a bit of a let down. My feet by this time were absolutely buckling from sheer tiredness. I doubt I would last until 6am at this rate. Charlie, James and I went for a walk to clear my head and get some fresh air. That helped, we came back to the GK tent for a few more hours of trance action. At 3.20am, we made the decision to leave. Heading out, it took us a good ten minutes to walk to the gate and other fifteen minutes to walk back to the car. We said goodbye to Daniel, James and Sarah as they headed off ahead of us. Daniel back to his tent to go sleep. On our walk back, we were asked to help push a BMW 5-series out of the mud and gladly obliged. As it was rear wheel drive, it was quite easy to push out of the slush, once the driver followed our directions in terms of steering. Our car was parked around the corner, but there was a dark blue Corsa. The driver, Jenny was quite distressed. Her car had been parked next to ours but moved by someone and also damaged. The roof dented in. We offered to help moved it and after three attempts got it shifted to the left hand side, out of our way and onto the drier grass. Charlie had mentioned to me several times before today and on the journey down about hoping that is car did not get stuck in the mud. I had dismissed the comments, not paying any attention to him. I was foolish to be so ignorant. Switching back to his trainers and got into the drivers seat. I got out of my muddy shoes and took my socks off and threw them into a bag. He started his engine and off we went. The problem is, we did not get far, we got stuck two yards ahead, into the thick mud. There was no alternative, I had to get out and push. I put on Charlie’s muddy walking boots and braved the muddy field. Jenny helped me and we got the car out of one ditch and into another. We asked some passersby for help and moved the car a little further but there was no luck. Charlie got out of his car now and we were considering waiting for a tractor or 4v4 to come pull us out. Jenny was more optimistic and we decided to clear the road of cars and then get a big gang of guys together for one final push. We first moved a gold Astra Cabriolet, then a silver Fiesta. By now, we had a group of guys helping us move the Vectra. The guy who was by the drivers side wheel got caked in mud. The car was a state, we took some photos before we eventually left the complex.

Charlie points out a spot with no mud!Muddest Vectra on the planet!

It was 3.30am, when we got to the car and it was 4.18am, by the time we were heading for the exit. I asked various people if they knew where the way out was but everyone did not, and we eventually came to a steward who told us it was straight ahead. There were moderate crowds of people leaving but you could still hear the music from the various tents on the other side of the fence. We got back onto the M40, the roads were clear. We pulled up at Handy Cross around 6am and had caught up with Sarah and James in their StreetKa. Charlie opened the window and explained our hour long adventure in the mud. We got back to Charlie’s flat at 6.30am, we had some breakfast and a nice cup of strong tea (no sugar). After that, I set my alarm for 8.30am, and got into my sleeping bag on the sofa and drifted off to sleep. I got up and left at 9am, got some petrol and then headed home. The next part of the weekend adventure was about to begin. This was literally a pit stop. I had a shower, got changed into my Arsenal gear, grabbed my things and was out the door about quarter past 10. I had wanted to leave around 11am originally but was glad I was ahead of schedule for a change. I got to the train station just after 10.30am, and it was busy. I bought my ticket and headed for platform three. I looked at the notice board and saw a message about Global Gathering this weekend. I would see it for first hand shortly. The next train was late but would be stopping at platform 3 at 10.33am, it was 10.31, so I ran across down to and through the subway. The area was packed for a Sunday, with one Arsenal fan and girlfriend in the corner. As the train arrived, I looked through the window of the carriages and was shocked at what I saw. Muddy wellies and foil sheets. It was jam packed with Global Gathering revelers, on their way back home. The train had no seats left and even standing room as at a premium. A few brave souls decided to push and shove their way on board. I opted to wait for the next train, after all it was a faster service. The next train arrived a few minutes later, it too was late (only by 5 minutes) but almost empty. I boarded the train, grabbed a seat and put on my Zen. At Beaconsfield a couple got on with their daughter, they were taking her to the game, she must have been two years old max. A family outing, it was a lovely picture moment really. Although the thought of a beer belly showing underneath the Arsenal top, reminded me I need to get back to the training later this week. When we pulled into Marylebone, we were moments behind the earlier train. As I got to the barrier, I noticed the campers from Global queuing on the other side of the platform, I rushed through and down onto the tube station. The next part of my journey could begin. It was 11.25am, I noted from the clock and I got to Islington around midday. It was relatively quiet, with a few other early birds milling around. I headed straight to the stadium and decided to pop into the Armoury for a little window shopping. On my way, I bought a programme from the usual spot and asked about the result from yesterday afternoon’s game. I had missed it from the radio on the drive back from Reading. The shop was packed with little room to move around. I checked out the new away kit first hand but opted against a purchase, I will wait for a while. I am not in a rush. I headed back to my turnstile (A) and waited outside, the doors were not going to open until after 1pm. They eventually did, and I grabbed a pie before taking my seat. It was right by the dugout, within touching distance of Arsene and the team. It was only the second time I had sat in the lower tier (the first time being for DB10’s testimonial) and then it had been at the opposite end. A selection of club officials (both home and visiting) were out by the dugout, including match referee Mark Halsey. They were joined by Arsen√© Wenger and Gerrard Houllier. I took some photos with my N73 but they were quite poor and the zoom is rather pathetic in these circumstances. The ground slowly filled up but was by no means up to capacity, with empty seats all over the place. The first game was good, but the fans were quite passive. PSG won, quite convincingly while Valencia went missing. Then it was time for the main event, the first time I had seen the Gooners in action since March. The result was great, but I was more impressed with the overall team performance. We continued to constantly press and probe, did not lose momentum by going a goal down and never gave up. I am looking forward to next season. I left soon after the trophy was presented to the team and caught the Victoria line train from Finsbury Park. Perhaps I should have taken the Piccadilly. I got stuck at Warren Street, so got the Northern Line down to Embankment, then switched to the Bakerloo line. As I rushed up from the platform to Marylebone concourse, I was shocked to see more muddy wellingtons and camping gear! People were still coming back from Stafford-upon-Avon. It was about 7.30pm, thirteen hours since I had got back from the festival with Charlie!

Sunset over Wycombe Train Station

Above is the final photograph from a wild weekend. I think you will agree that it sums up the two days very well. As “Rock & Roll” weekends go, it was one of the best. It perhaps goes down in the short history of this blog as one of the greatest weekends ever. However, the record will not last long, expect more in the coming few days, next weekend is camping in Wales!

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